<
>

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman: Artemi Panarin extension 'big relief'

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said signing Artemi Panarin to a contract extension was a "top priority" one day after locking up the high-scoring left wing with a two-year, $12 million deal.

Before Thursday's 3-2 win over the Nashville Predators, Bowman said it took several months of work to sign the Calder Trophy winner.

"You have to be patient with these things," he said. "They don't always come together when you first start the negotiations. I was confident from the beginning that we were going to be able to get something done."

With nearly a season and a half of NHL experience, Panarin has been a point-per-game player since entering the league. He leads Chicago and is fifth in the NHL with 38 points (15 goals, 23 assists) this season and has 115 points in his first 118 NHL games. The 25-year-old Russian winger had 30 goals and 47 assists as a rookie.

"He's a huge part of our team, so to know that he is going to be here two more seasons is a big relief," Bowman said. "He's been, since he's stepped onto the scene here, he's been a top-10 scorer in the league. That's really hard to do."

Neither Bowman nor Panarin seemed concerned when asked about the salary-cap implications of adding the deal to a roster filled with several long-term, high-dollar contracts.

"We've been doing that for months now, so it doesn't just start now," Bowman said. "It's a process we're always going to be facing. I think we're not alone in that. Every team is looking ahead and making projections on their lineup and their roster."

Said Panarin through an interpreter: "Chicago gave me a chance to play at the very highest level. I like everything about the team and the environment here. You can't earn all the money in the world."

With Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Artem Anisimov, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Corey Crawford signed, the Blackhawks already had $59 million committed prior to Panarin's signing. The NHL's salary-cap ceiling for the 2016-17 season is $73 million.

"It's a great day for him, a great day for the organization, and it's good that he's going to be sticking around for a couple of more years," Patrick Kane said. "I'm happy for him; it's well-deserved. He's had a great season and a half that he's been here, and he's proven himself as one of the most dynamic players in the league. It's a great day to be a Blackhawk and a Hawks fan."

After Thursday's win, Bowman's Blackhawks lead the Western Conference with 51 points. The work on next year's salary cap will come later for Chicago's 43-year-old general manager.

"My suggestion will be to try and enjoy the fact that we've got a great player who is a big part of our team and wants to be here in Chicago," Bowman said. "He loves playing with his teammates. He's having a lot of fun and scoring a lot of goals. That's really the thing that we're excited about. The other stuff, we'll make it work. The time to dissect that is not right now, but we'll get there eventually."